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House Democratic leaders shut down debate and amendments late Tuesday night on the first regular spending bill of the year, prompting outrage from Republicans and talk of massive retaliation.
After Republicans refused to agree to a timetable for the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill and insisted on debating a GOP amendment that Democrats had agreed to accept, Democrats curtailed the debate. They eventually went to the Rules Committee for an emergency meeting that ended near 2 a.m. with a new rule that drastically reduced the number of amendments that would be allowed.
I wonder if there isnt more freedom on the streets of Tehran right now than we are seeing here, ripped Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), the ranking Republican on the Rules Committee, to Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) at the raucous hearing.
Rules for appropriations bills have historically been open and provide a rare opportunity for the minority to challenge spending or policies contained in the bills.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told Members at a meeting Wednesday to discuss the issue that he wants them to force two votes for every amendment, according to two GOP sources in the room. That tactic, employed by Republicans previously, could cause havoc for Democratic plans to move bills in the coming weeks, and Democratic leaders were huddling to figure out what to do.
Boehner declined at a press conference to elaborate on what tactics Republicans might use.
Obey, meanwhile, threatened during the Rules meeting that if he cant get his bills done by Aug. 1 he will bring up an omnibus appropriations package after the August recess.
If we dont make certain concessions to the calendar, we are simply guaranteeing that we will have an omnibus situation, he said.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) retorted, If you thought that was so important [to get all 12 appropriations bills done by August], why are you spending every Monday night voting on post offices?
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) argued that Democratic leaders had tried to come to an agreement with Republicans to keep consideration of the Commerce-Justice-Science bill to a reasonable amount of time.
But since GOP leaders refused, Hoyer said, Democrats needed to act to prevent sprawling debate from swamping a crowded House calendar and resulting in an omnibus later this year.
We do not think thats unreasonable and we dont think its unfair, he said Tuesday night in a colloquy with Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
But Cantor charged that Democrats were jumping to conclusions about Republican intentions by cutting off amendments after 22 minutes of debate.
How is it that we can expect good faith debate? Cantor asked.
The outrage was swift.
Repression, arrogance, and tyranny live in the House of Representatives, said Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.). As they rush, in typical fashion, to pass the largest set of spending bills in history, House Democrats have dishonored the body by shutting out those who question their willingness to bury future generations in debt.
To our credit, for a dozen years we took on all comers on appropriations bills, said Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who had stints as Majority Leader and Majority Whip.